Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

Archive for the ‘Cambodia’ Category

“I am going to annihilate you”: Five Books on Marx and Marxists

In Cambodia, China, Marxism, Stalin, Trotskyism on May 7, 2013 at 7:13 AM

Phil at A Very Public Sociologist reminds us that Sunday would have been Karl Marx’s 195th birthday. This, he believes, is something well worthwhile commemorating. The way he has done so is to list his five favourite books on Marx and Marxism.  He challenges us to also list books that have had an impact. What better way for me to do that in “honour” of this birthday than to also list five book on Marx and Marxism. For the sectarians I should clarify that: five books on Marx and people who claimed to be Marxist.

  1. Leopold  Schwarzchild, The Red Prussian: The Life and Legend of Karl Marx, (Pickwick Books, 1986)

In this book, originally published in Britain in 1948, one can get a true sense of the type of man Marx was. The following few sentences are extracted from pages 68-69 and are based on an account provided by Marx’s assistant, Carl Heinzen:

[Marx's] most pleasing trait was his appreciation of good wine. Every evening they repaired to the inn to drink; and then, as they emptied one bottle after another, Marx became gay, jovial, and natural. When he was in a good mood, he amused himself time and time again with the same joke. He would say suddenly to someone at the table: “I am going to annihilate you,” and say it over and over again, enjoying himself tremendously.

  1. Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, (Vintage, 1990)

In this ground-breaking monumental study, Richard Pipes provides a convincing argument why the Russian Revolution was not a class uprising as Leninists would have people believe, but a coup d’état where a small minority with the use of terror and mass murder took control of government. The following short extract is from page 833:

On August 8 [1918, Trotsky] ordered that, for the protection of the railroad line from Moscow to Kazan, concentration camps be constructed at several nearby localities to isolate such “sinister agitators, counterrevolutionary officers, saboteurs, parasites and speculators” as were  not executed “on the spot” or given other penalties…. [On August 9, 1918, Lenin] ordered that mutinous “kulaks” be subjected to “merciless mass terror”- that is executions – but “dubious ones incarcerated in concentration camps outside the cities.”

  1. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2007)

Strictly speaking this is three books, as this magisterial work comprises three volumes. For the purpose of this list I count it as one entry. This report of life and death in the Soviet prison system that began under Lenin and substantially expanded under Stalin is chilling. Millions died under Stalin of which a substantial number of people were killed via the judicial system. The short extract below is from page 564 of that first volume:

General-assignment work – that is the main and basic work performed in any given camp. Eighty percent of the prisoners work at it, and they all die off. All. And then they bring new ones in to take their places and they again are sent to general-assignment work. Doing this work, you expend the last of your strength. And you are always hungry. And always wet. And shoeless. And you are given short rations and short everything else. And put in the worst barracks. And they won’t give you any treatment when you’re ill.

  1. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story, (Jonathan Cape, 2005)

This highly acclaimed biography of the Chinese leader is superbly researched. The death and destruction wrought by Mao brought Communist killings to a new high. Chang and Halliday document the evidence against this Communist monster. The extract below is from pages 456-458:

Close to 38 million people died of starvation and overwork in the Great Leap Forward and the famine which lasted four years….Mao knowingly starved and worked these tens of millions to death…. Death, said Mao, “is indeed to be rejoiced over… We believe in dialectics, and so we can’t not be in favour of death.”…. “Deaths have benefits,” he told the top echelon on 9 December 1958. “They can fertilise the ground.”….When he was in Moscow in 1957, he had said: “We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.”

  1. John Barron and Anthony Paul, Peace with Horror: The Untold Story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia, (Hodder and Stoughton, 1977)

This was the first book that came out detailing the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. It is largely based on eye-witness accounts. The killings started as soon as the Khmer Rouge got to power with the forced exodus of the population from the cities to the countryside. The extract below is from page 116:

The killing during the great exodus was all the more terrifying because so much of it was unpredictable and pointless. A former truck driver, Thiounn Kamel, was swept up in the throngs pushed out of Phnom Penh on National Highway 1. “When I couldn’t move because of the crowd, I stopped on the side of the road. That time there was a truck loaded with armed Khmer Rouge. When their truck also couldn’t move, they just shot at the people to clear the way and killed some of them. It was savage.”

Malcolm Caldwell: Defender of Pol Pot

In Cambodia on November 28, 2012 at 7:00 PM

The 20th Century was a genocidal century. Of all the genocides that took place, one that was particularly horrific was the one in Cambodia between April 1975 and January 1979 when the country came under the power of the Khmer Rouge. In less than four years, according to Craig Etcheson, an expert in the documentation of the Cambodian genocide, the best estimate for excess deaths is 2.2 million or about thirty percent of the population. The leader of the Khmer Rouge during this period, “Brother Number One,” was Pol Pot.

Malcolm Caldwell was a left-wing academic at School of Oriental and African Studies, a college of the University of London. During the period of time that the Khmer Rouge were massacring people, Malcolm Caldwell was both denying the accuracy of reports that said this was so and apologising for the regime. He is notorious as the leading academic defender of the Khmer Rouge in the West. At the end of 1978 Caldwell travelled to Cambodia and was murdered while there. In my opinion, the murderers were the very same Khmer Rouge who he had defended.

In 2009, I wrote an essay about Malcolm Caldwell. The title of the essay was “Malcolm Caldwell: Pol Pot’s Apologist,” and it was published in Democratiya, Issue 16, Spring-Summer 2009. I have made a copy of the essay available on line here.

Genocide Denial, Counterpunch, and Israel Shamir

In Cambodia on October 29, 2012 at 5:39 PM

This is a cross post. It was originally published on Harry’s Place on October 18th 2012, 12:17 pm

I have just noticed that last month Counterpunch published an article by Israel Shamir entitled, “Pol Pot Revisited.”  Below I extract some highlights:

The Khmer Rouge experiment lasted only three years, from 1975 to 1978.

Surprisingly, Cambodians have no bad memories of that period. This is quite an amazing discovery for an infrequent visitor…..

Cambodia’s population was not halved but more than doubled since 1970, despite alleged multiple genocides. Apparently, the genocidaires were inept, or their achievements have been greatly exaggerated.

The Pol Pot the Cambodians remember was not a tyrant, but a great patriot and nationalist, a lover of native culture and native way of life. He was brought up in  royal palace circles; his aunt was a concubine of the previous king. He studied in Paris, but instead of making money and a career, he returned home, and spent a few years dwelling with forest tribes to learn from the peasants. He felt compassion for the ordinary village people who were ripped off on a daily basis by the city folk, the comprador parasites. He built an army to defend the countryside from these power-wielding robbers. Pol Pot,  a monkish man of simple needs, did not seek wealth, fame or power for himself. He had one great ambition: to terminate the failing colonial capitalism in Cambodia, return to village tradition, and from there, to build a new country from scratch…..

The Cambodians I spoke to pooh-poohed the dreadful stories of Communist Holocaust as a western invention……

If the Cambodians are pressed to name their great destroyer (and they are not keen about burrowing back into the past), it is Professor Henry Kissinger they name, not Comrade Pol Pot……

New Cambodia (or Kampuchea, as it was called) under Pol Pot and his comrades was a nightmare for the privileged, for the wealthy and for their retainers; but poor people had enough food and were taught to read and write. As for the mass killings, these are just horror stories, averred my Cambodian interlocutors…..

with capitalism, we have no future worth living, while socialism still offers hope to us and our children.

I see no reason to try and demonstrate the falsities that this vile and disgraceful article contains by citing from far more authoritative sources as to what did occur in Cambodia under Pol Pot. But let there be no mistake: the behaviour of Israel Shamir in writing it is no better than  Ernst Zündel, David Irving and others who have denied the Holocaust. It is an insult to the Cambodian population and Counterpunch have sunk to new depths by publishing it.

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